Merck moving its global headquarters

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. -- The drugmaker Merck & Co. announced Tuesday that it will move its global headquarters within New Jersey as it looks to lower operating expenses and consolidate its properties.

The company's headquarters are moving about 25 miles east from Whitehouse Station to another Merck site in Summit, which is about 12 miles west of New York City.

The headquarters have been in Whitehouse Station since 1992 and were in Rahway, N.J. before that. The building housing its headquarters in Whitehouse Station will close.

Merck said the Summit property was chosen because it has extra work space available, houses multiple operations and is closer to major transportation hubs and urban centers.

The Whitehouse Station property houses about 2,000 employees and contract workers. They will either move to Summit or to other facilities in Branchburg, N.J. and Cokesbury, N.J.

The Summit location is currently home to 1,800 employees, housing research, manufacturing, animal health and consumer care operations.

"The relocation of our headquarters will help us achieve our future vision, reduce the size of our operating footprint, and increase agility as we adapt to our changing business environment," Merck chairman and CEO Kenneth C. Frazier said in a statement.

Merck said the move is expected to start in 2014 and be completed in the middle of 2015.

Since early in the last decade, Merck has been steadily slashing jobs, announcing a new restructuring program every two or three years. After buying Schering-Plough Corp. in November 2009, the combined company had a total of about 100,000 jobs. Merck pared that to 84,000 by this past June and continues to trim its workforce.

Like most other drugmakers, the company is being squeezed by the weak global economy, private and government health programs pushing for lower medicine prices, and generic competition slashing revenue from former blockbuster drugs.

In early August, Merck's top seller, asthma and allergy treatment Singulair, got U.S. generic competition. The drug had $5.5 billion in global sales last year, about 70 percent of that in the U.S., and sales have already plunged.

Merck shares rose 6 cents to $46.40 in afternoon trading Tuesday after rising as high as $46.54 earlier in the session, their highest level since early 2008.